Josh Freeman

Man That Felt Good

September 10, 2012 at 10:28am by Scott   •  5 Comments »

panthers20121

Breathe it in, people. Breathe in the sweet smell of a Buccaneer victory. It’s been several months and several other kinds of smells since we’ve experienced this, since we’ve been able to hold our heads high and go to the grocery store with our Buccaneers shirts on without having to make excuses for the team. I’m not booking my ticket for February in New Orleans (can you book passage on a submarine?) but it’s an excellent start and hopefully a sign of things to come.

I’ve really got no complaints about any of the positions. Josh Freeman looked more comfortable in the pocket, made good decisions and fucking RAN once in a while. He looked stronger in the first half than the second, but he didn’t force any balls and most importantly didn’t throw any interceptions. He had a 66% completion rate and a 95.5 passer rating. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams were the only wide receivers that caught balls yesterday, but they came up big when the had to (although Jackson did have a couple drops). The offensive line was solid except for part of the third quarter when things fell apart for a little bit. Jeremy Trueblood gave up a sack and so did Ted Larsen, who wasn’t awful but certainly isn’t Davin Joseph. Erik Lorig was paving roads all day long and catching everything thrown his way. He’s way better at fullback than I had ever given him credit for.

But the offensive performance centered around Doug Martin. I had heard rumors about “running back by committee”, but that ain’t happening. Martin rushed 24 times for 95 yards giving him 4.0 YPC. But the great thing about that average is that it was consistent. It’s not like he got stopped at the line five times and then broke one out for 30 yards. He was consistently getting chunks of yards on just about every carry, and that’s a much better way to get that average. Because in a pinch if you need two yards to keep the drive going, you aren’t rolling the dice with him.

And let’s not forget his ability to catch. He caught four balls from Freeman including one where he leapt over Luke Kuechly and had to keep him from wrestling it away (a cheap move by Kuechly since Martin had clearly caught the ball and been touched down before there was any question of possession). Keep in mind that Martin is only 4 foot 6, so outleaping anyone is a huge feat. Add his competent pass blocking and Martin made an excellent centerpiece for this offense.

The defense also put on an excellent show, throwing a shutout in the first half and limiting the Panthers to ten points altogether. Carolina only rushed for ten total yards. Go ahead and read that again. This was supposed to be the best rushing team in the league this year. Granted, they didn’t have Jonathan Stewart yesterday, but they still had DeAngelo Williams and Newton and probably felt they could run the ball up the middle. I know I thought they were going to. Part of their problem was Gerald McCoy, who put the entire responsibility of the front seven on his back and played like he had been possessed by the ghost of Warren Sapp (I am being told now that Sapp isn’t dead. My apologies.) He was disruptive all game long, not allowing Newton to set up and attacking the rusher in the backfield when it was a run. And Roy Miller is just fine as the nose tackle. Stop trying to replace him and just let him play.

I didn’t see a single missed tackle by the linebackers yesterday. I may have missed one, but there definitely weren’t many. Mason Foster and Quincy Black are much improved over last season and Lavonte David was an improvement over Geno Hayes the day he was drafted.

The secondary also played a good game, coming up with two interceptions and playing solid man to man coverage for most of the game. The offense is going to make their plays too, so plays like that 50 yard catch by Louis Murphy when Aqib Talib was draped all over him is really more about a perfect pass than poor coverage. The only problems I really saw were the two plays where the receiver (one of them being Steve Smith) was wide open. And I don’t mean he had a yard or two on the guy chasing him. I mean there were no other bodies in the TV frame when he caught the ball. Both times the Bucs got burned for a big play, one of them being a touchdown. I’m assuming these were blown coverages or miscommunications or something similar that can be corrected with watching film and running some gassers.

Ahmad Black looks like a star in the making. He had one beautiful pick on an underthrown ball and another almost-pick. And Mark Barron looked good, too. I think one of those blown coverages may have been his fault, but he’ll work that out. The dude sure can hit. Barron finished with three tackles and two passes broken up.

Can’t forge the kicking game. Connor Barth made three field goals (the difference in the score), Michael Koenen had four touchbacks on kickoffs and a strong day punting, and even a punt blocked by Talib who I am impressed to see playing on special teams.

Sorry if this write-up isn’t all that funny. Most jokes come from pain or something negative and this game didn’t have a lot of that. Just solid, aggressive, well-played football. The fundamentals have been emphasized this season and it shows.

5 Comments to “Man That Felt Good”

Mark S

Mark S (September 10, 2012 at 11:49am:

I was psyched, wowed and on pins and needles the entire game. This brings back memories of Dungy ball.

When the pass defense was man-to-man, the Bucs played better than when they were in zone. On one of the plays that Scott refers to above, was zone and the LBs bit on the play action fake. They were totally out of position. Other than that they had a great game. The LBs deserve special commendation not only for not missing tackles but for staying on assignment and filling the gaps. You don’t hold any NFL team to 10 yards rushing without great LB play. (I don’t remember any NFL team EVER being held to 10 yards. Is it a first?) The DL played like they were possessed. Having Miller in that slant set gave him leverage on the center all day long. There was one memorable play where he collapsed the center and ran down the line to drop the RB off-tackle for a loss. Great play.

The offense is another matter and hopefully a work in progress. The running backs played great, Josh was on target but the rest was not impressive. Some times we got too predictable at play calling and some times we were too passive in selecting targets. For example, there was a stretch where we had two good running plays that produced a first down. We went to the run a third time and got stuffed for a loss, which led to a punt. The Panthers were selling out against the run on first down all day. The next series we called a pass and the throw was on target, the receiver had space, but dropped it. On receiver targets, there was a play where Jackson got open deep on a pump and go, but Josh dumped it off. That may not be Josh’s fault. Schiano may have told him to be conservative. Hopefully as the trust builds, Josh will make some deep connections.

Our reward is that our next game is against the Giants in the Meadowlands, and are coming off of a loss. I cannot think of a worse team for us to face. What makes it especially hard for us, is that our offensive coordinator is formerly from the Giants. They will know our offense. Hopefully our defense can be dominant and keep it close. I do not have great expectations for this game. If there ever was a game where being competitive is a moral victory, then this is it. Good luck Bucs.

BaldBuc4055

BaldBuc4055 (September 10, 2012 at 12:34pm:

I thought that I had stepped into a time machine back to some time between 1999 and 2002. Linebackers taking the proper angles and not overrunning plays, safeties making plays, corners locking down on receivers, and the defensive line causing havoc upfront all day long. I was in heaven.

A lot of people have been critical of Gerald McCoy, and rightfully so to a degree, but that man deserves some props for his play yesterday. As a whole, you can already tell Schiano’s imprint is already being left on this team.

The only complaint I have is the offense sputtering in the second half, but I think that can be taken care of. Freeman didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes and Doug Martin officially made the starting running back job his own.

The Giants game will be a test, but I’m looking forward to it a lot more now than I was a month ago. I still don’t think the Bucs will go to the Super Bowl, and the playoffs might even be a stretch, but it was easy to see yesterday that this team is headed in the right direction.

Mark S

Mark S (September 10, 2012 at 12:49pm:

Amen BaldBuc4055. One player that disappointed me tremendously was Michael Smith. He never got even one of his kick off returns up to the 20 yard line. He does not look fast, doesn’t play fast and doesn’t look ready. Is it too late to put him on the Practice Squad?

Slow Joe

Slow Joe (September 10, 2012 at 03:00pm:

One difference I noticed between now and the Dungy days: blitzing. Holy shit, did we blitz. On almost every passing down, it seemed.

I think that contributed to some breakdowns in the secondary. The great thing about the old Tampa-2 is that we got our pass rush from the front four, so we gave up very few big plays because our secondary always played back. Now in this blitzing scheme we’ll have less people back there and we’ll be in more man-to-man situations.

dwtalso

dwtalso (September 10, 2012 at 04:01pm:

I couldn’t believe how many times there were three or more white jerseys in the Carolina backfield right after the snap. The rush was ferocious. I counted three of four times that the pocket collapsed around Cam so fast I was sure there should have been an offsides penalty.

Wow. Just, wow. I spent the last half of last season wondering where the rush went. Maybe its back…? I hope!

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